So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

27 April, 2007

Women's Magic

This is just one of those trivial, trivial things, one of those tempests-in-a-teapot, and it's not even my teapot, but it would make me angry if it didn't make me tired.

Some guy says "guys [tend] to cultivate nerdy hobbies, and women tending to be more invested in raising children, resulting in reduced participation in magical stuff" over here, which is a flamewar entirely irrelevant to where I go off with this but included for context and attribution.

The thing is, I come at this a day or two after meeting my deadline for writing an article for an esoteric webzine about home protection magic, the research for which mostly involved me trawling through a bunch of folk magic traditions for bits. And if you look at the traditional magical practices of ordinary people, they are preoccupied with the stuff that ordinary people are concerned with: safe pregnancies and healthy children, care and feeding of the family, protection from nightmares ... Not some "nerdy hobby", it's a part of the process of normal survival: appeasing or warding off of threats, fertility of people and livestock and crops, knowing how to heal illness.

It's an esoteric and really quite tangential thing, but there's the microcosm there: the real whatever is the thing of the leisured classes; the people whose focus is on living, using magical tricks if that's a part of what they do/believe, their contribution to magic, or art, or whatever else, is completely dismissable. Vast collections of lore and knowledge about producing healthy children is blown off as "reduced participation in magical stuff" because it's not, well, as Granny Weatherwax might put it, full of geometry -- abstractions divorced from the real world of breath, blood, and bone. It doesn't matter that this is a conversation about magic; magic is just a placeholder for the whole concept of whose stuff is valued and marked as real. And in this case, the women and the working class and the people who are hands in the muck rather than thinking great and abstract theoretical thoughts are the ones who aren't really participating, apparently by definition.

And it's not related, but also not unrelated, that I'm watching someone I know go to a birth center because her insurance won't cover a homebirth, and now they're saying that she needs to have a psychological evaluation to determine whether or not she's sane enough to give birth other than in a hospital ... because she was in therapy once upon a time after a sexual assault. There's this whole battle of the paradigms there, this notion that she needs to prove that she's qualified as a mother to not go through the system that she's uncomfortable with; the fact that she can't afford to get the care that she would prefer to have, despite the midwife care she had for her first child being far superior to that which she's can get that's covered by her insurance; the whole fact that her psychiatric history due to her post-rape counselling is being dragged in and revictimising her. And there's that thread of women's magic in what she expects of a midwife's group that she's not getting, that sense that there's someone who's in tune with that rather than the medical-condition concept of pregnancy and childbirth that she is trying to avoid, and her sense of betrayal that this group wants to make her get a pass to certify that she's sane enough to be not treated as an impending medical crisis needing hospital care.

I know an ancient Egyptian charm against nightmares. Someday, I expect that I will teach it to my children.

But that's not real magic. That's just women's magic.

1 comment:

Vieva said...

you know, reading that gives me a similar reaction: angry and yet just plain tired.

Why do so many people devalue the very things that support them? What working people doesn't matter. What parents do doesn't matter. Etc.

All that matters is what the leisured class does in their leisure time. The rest of it is just *them*.

I'm not sure what I find more insulting about that premise: that only their hobbies are "meaningful" (and there are intellectual pursuits which are far from useful!) or that actually doing work and keeping home and hearth going is meaningless.

After all, if these people's parents hadn't done what THEY did, where would these people be now?